Evaluating Electric vs. Natural Gas Heating Costs

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Forum topic by BoilerUp21 posted 01-02-2018 07:19 PM 1672 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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45 posts in 699 days

01-02-2018 07:19 PM

So I know this has been discussed in other posts, but I want to make sure I have calculated this correctly before I take the plunge and install a natural gas heater to replace my current 5,600W (~19,000BTU) electric shop heater:

Based on the information I entered on the link below, electric heat costs me roughly 30x more than gas would to heat my shop.

My utility rates are $0.11129 per therm for gas and $0.110433 per kWh for electric. With that being said, it costs me $3.24 (per 100,000 BTU) for electric, and $0.11 (per 100,000 BTU) for gas. Now with all things being equal…

If I were to use roughly 500,000 BTU a week for 16 weeks/yr (estimated months and BTU’s needed for 4 average cold months), electric would run me ~$260 vs gas being $9.00 for the same time period.

If this is truly the case, I can justify the initial cost of the heater and installation, which will pay for itself after less than 4 years and then be extremely cost effective every year after (saving me roughly $250/yr in shop heating costs).

Any input on this would be greatly appreciated. With this latest cold snap, the electric heater takes a couple hours to warm the shop. I would like to get something that puts out ~40,000BTU to get the shop heated twice as quick so I’m not waiting as long to get in there and work!


10 replies so far

View PPK's profile


952 posts in 741 days

#1 posted 01-02-2018 07:25 PM

Yep, I think no matter where you live in the U.S., natural gas is going to be cheaper than electricity… Go for it! My shop is heated with NG, and I like it a lot….

-- Pete

View knotscott's profile


7937 posts in 3307 days

#2 posted 01-02-2018 07:30 PM

NG is just coming off some long term lows, but has jumped due to the cold snap. Not a bad time to lock in a good price IMO.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View bigblockyeti's profile


5051 posts in 1653 days

#3 posted 01-02-2018 07:46 PM

For me, natural gas costs are lower than electricity but the wild card is the distribution costs, both are outrageous in my area due to a bunch of jokers who aspire to only be extremely lazy & inefficient after implementation of reason & accountability requirements that aren’t very likely. The other part of the equation for me is available power, I have only a 60A service going to my shop and a couple Unisaws, a 7.5hp planer, cyclonic DC, chargers, stereo, lights & air cleaner all vying for electricity (albeit not at the same time), 20A – 30A @240V for heat isn’t in the budget. My NG heater isn’t all that efficient, 70% I think, but it puts out 40K BTU and heats my 410sqft. shop pretty quickly while only drawing 3A for the fan an gas solenoid. I haven’t had to do anything to my shop as it was built with as a wood shop by the original owner and this is as transitional house for my family so my desire to spend money on something with less than a 125% ROI.

View jerkylips's profile


372 posts in 2502 days

#4 posted 01-02-2018 07:48 PM

One thing to consider, although I’m not sure the difference would be great since you already have heat – but check your homeowners insurance to see if having gas heat would increase your rates. Going from electric to gas may not, but I know that if you go from a non-heated garage/shop to heated, it will increase rates. Keep in mind that if you’re not paying for it on your homeowners, you likely signed something at some point saying that you did not have a heated garage. If you would have a fire and that was the case, you’d be out of luck.

Years ago I was considering a wood burner in the garage for occasional heating, but my premiums would have increased to the point where it wasn’t worth it.

View Woodmaster1's profile


905 posts in 2519 days

#5 posted 01-02-2018 09:02 PM

I use a 50k btu bigmaxx ng heater. It only cost me around $120 extra a year to heat my garage at 70 degrees throughout the winter. I live in northeast Indiana and today it was -14 and the garage was 70. The garage is detached 990 sqft with R19 in the walls and R30 in the ceiling.

View Andre's profile


1723 posts in 1738 days

#6 posted 01-02-2018 09:04 PM

Really depends on where you live? and local costs? I heat my shop with a Electric boiler with in floor heating.
Electric heat is 100% efficient. no waste? No vent/chimmney no open flame and price here so far is stable! Another big Plus so far is Carbon tax on N.G. but not on Electricity? (Yet!) Drawback is slow temp change and need better air circulation but after many years the change on my Power bills has never really been noticed.

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View yvrdennis's profile


45 posts in 1009 days

#7 posted 01-03-2018 12:19 AM

Electric heating using heat pumps can be very competitive if you’re in a mild climate (plus you get air conditioning). They don’t work well when it gets really cold though so it’s not a great option in the frozen centre of the continent. I’m on the west coast and tomorrow I get my heat pump put into my shop. Up front cost is more but it will pay for itself.

View JBrow's profile


1340 posts in 852 days

#8 posted 01-03-2018 02:53 AM


For what is worth my input is:

Folks in the heating and cooling business must have some magic formula that determines heating and cooling loads for a space. Obtaining the results from such a calculation might help in the selection of a properly sized unit, whether electric of gas.

The on-line calculator on which your cost comparison is based assumes resistive electric heat. There are alternative forms of electric heat which offer cost savings over electric resistive heat and may be worth a look.

One alternative to resistive electric heat is electric radiant heating (infrared emitting) units. I installed three 1000 watt (3414 btu each) units on a thermostat at about $400 per unit three years ago. They keep my 400 square foot garage workshop warm, but, depending on the indoor and outdoor temperatures, it takes some time to heat the shop (which could be reduced with the addition of another infrared unit). Since the units are ceiling mounted, they are out of the way. My best guess is that the operating costs are $25/month or less at about $0.07/KWH when maintaining the shop at more or less 65 degrees. Installation is similar to adding a new electric circuit but depending on the cost of the natural gas heater, this alternative electric heat may be more costly to purchase. A company who sells these radiant heaters offers this operating cost analysis…

Before choosing a natural gas heater it may be worthwhile to ensure that the main gas line that would be tapped for the natural gas heater is of sufficient size. If the main gas line is too small, upgrading could be an ugly hidden cost.

A natural gas heater that is sealed and draws combustion air from the outdoors offers significant advantages. A sealed unit would not remove oxygen from the shop and would reduce condensation, problems of dust interfering with the burners, and carbon monoxide build-up in the shop.

No matter the option you select, obviously operating costs will be lower if the workshop is well insulated.

View sawdustdad's profile


354 posts in 817 days

#9 posted 01-03-2018 03:16 AM

I don’t know where you live, but average natural gas rates are closer to $1 per therm for most of the country. In Virginia it averages $1.13. That’s 100,000 BTUs. Electric is about $.10/kwr, or 3412 BTUs. So 100,000 BTUs of electric costs just under $3.00. Vs. $1.13 for gas. A factor of about 3, not 30.

A heat pump is 1.5 to 3 times more efficient than resistance heat. In moderate climate, then, a heat pump is about the same cost as natural gas. Plus you get cooling in the summer.

Just some more info to help people make a decision. I’m in Virginia with no natural gas available at my home, so for me, it’s a heat pump. Propane, oil, kerosene would be my only other options, but I like the no open flame, no CO concerns of a heat pump.

-- Murphy's Carpentry Corollary #3: Half of all boards cut to a specific length will be too short.

View OleGrump's profile


162 posts in 277 days

#10 posted 01-03-2018 03:06 PM

I live near Frederick, Maryland. In this area, we have a power company (which is very good, only a very rare and very short loss of electricity in six years) bumps their rates up about triple in the Winter time. We installed an electric heat pump/furnace in 2012. When the electric furnace comes on, the meter starts spinning. Bottom line, the electric bill can be in the $400 range for about three or four months. (And that’s NOT running any power tools! That’s JUST the house at 68 degrees and CAREFUL use of lights and appliances.) Unfortunately, we do not have access to natural gas. Hence my question earlier about non electric heat. May just have to bite the bullet and install a box stove.

-- OleGrump

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